Man arrested for setting fire to car granted mental health, disability evaluation

ST. CLOUD — A 39-year-old man facing arson and drug possession charges was granted a mental and developmental disability assessment in Stearns County District Court on Thursday morning.

James Lund allegedly set a car on fire Monday morning at the Walgreens drive-thru on 2505 W. Division St. by pouring rubbing alcohol on the vehicle. The driver, an 18-year-old East African woman, walked out of her car and extinguished the flames with a water bottle. A criminal complaint states the fire caused more than $1,000 in damages to a 2024 Hyundai Tucson.

Stearns County District Court Senior Judge Thomas Knapp granted Lund, who was charged with third-degree arson and two fifth-degree drug possession felony charges, a Rule 20 assessment. These assessments occur when there’s belief the defendant may have a mental illness or developmental disability prohibiting them from proceeding with the case or being liable for their alleged actions.

Lund will now take a competency assessment. The assessment of his capability may take up to 60 days to be heard, and the court will consider next steps after its completion.

If the medical examination concludes Lund is competent, the trial will proceed as usual. If Lund is deemed incompetent, Minnesota court rules state criminal charges will be dismissed three years after the finding of incompetency.

More: Car set on fire in St. Cloud Man sets East African woman's car on fire in St. Cloud

When police confronted Lund around 10:30 a.m. Monday, roughly 15 minutes after the fire occurred, he allegedly yelled at officers, clenched his fists, put his arms at his side and positioned his upper body forward as if he were preparing to fight, according to the complaint. An officer then displayed his taser, causing Lund to back off. At that time, he was placed under arrest.

As Lund was arrested, officers found two amphetamine pills and roughly 2.82 grams of methamphetamine in his possession, according to the complaint.

The St. Cloud Police Department’s investigation concluded this was a random act and was not racially motivated. However, St. Cloud’s East African community is speaking out against the department’s decision.

“If you look at the Walgreens, I’m sure she was one of the only Black people in the area,” said Abdi Ibrahim, programs manager for the Center for African Immigrants and Refugees Organization. “Of all the cars there, why did he go up to this girl? Because he knew she was vulnerable."

The victim told the St. Cloud Times under anonymity that she’s hesitant to consider Lund’s alleged actions as racially motivated because he came from behind and might not have seen her face. However, she said it’s possible he saw her hijab’s outline, and the idea of a racial motive crossed her mind.

“I really don’t know (if it was race-related),” she said. “Maybe it was a racial crime, or maybe he did it out of the blue...it could’ve been because I was wearing my hijab.”

Knapp set Lund’s unconditional bail at $150,000 and conditional bail at $30,000, stating he believes Lund to be a public safety risk. Conditions include staying away from drugs, random drug testing, avoiding all Walgreens locations and not contacting the victim.

Corey Schmidt covers local government for the St. Cloud Times. He can be reached at cschmidt@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: Bail set at $150,000 for alleged St. Cloud arsonist

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